In the past, engagements were arranged by parents and matchmakers. The engagement consisted of 'six courtesies'. The six courtesies were: a marriage proposal, asking for names, praying for good fortune, sending betrothal gifts, sending invitations, and welcoming the bride.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match

In the past, a family would hire a matchmaker, and the matchmaker would go to another family’s home to seek a proposal. Then, both families would consult a fortune teller who analyzed the man and woman’s birth dates, times, names and other vital information. If both were deemed compatible, a marriage deal would be brokered. Betrothal gifts would be offered and a wedding planned.

While some families may still opt for an arranged marriage or set their children up with other friends’ children, most Chinese find their own soul mates and decide when to get engaged. The man often presents the woman with a diamond ring. While modern engagements differ from the past, there are still many Chinese engagement traditions including offering betrothal gifts, a bridal dowry, and consultation with a fortune teller.

Betrothal Gifts as a Tradition

Once a couple decides to get married, the groom’s family sends gifts to the bride’s family. These include food and cakes. Once the bride’s family accepts the gifts, the wedding cannot be called off lightly.

Bridal Dowry as a Tradition

The bridal dowry consists of the gifts that the bride brings to her husband’s home after marriage. Once a woman marries, she leaves her home and becomes part of her husband’s family. Her principal responsibility is with her husband’s family. The value of the dowry used to determine a woman’s status in her new household.

A Fortune Teller Consultation

Before an engagement can be confirmed, both families consult a fortune teller to make sure the couple is compatible. Names, birth dates, birth years, and birth times are analyzed to determine compatibility.

Once the fortune teller gives the okay, traditionalists will confirm the engagement with ‘three matchmakers and six proofs.’ The ‘six proofs’ are an abacus, a measuring vessel, a ruler, a pair of scissors, a set of scales and a mirror.